Beijing (AsiaNews) - The provincial government of Xinjiang has approved a series of convictions handed down in recent days against 19 Uighurs (the ethnic majority), sentencing them to up to 6 years in prison for having "promoted racial hatred "and having "spread religious extremism through the internet. " All prisoners (except one) come from the southern part of the province, one of the most tense battlegrounds of conflict with Han Chinese.
The judges found sentenced one of the accused because he downloaded "material that foments religious fervor and preach the holy war" from the Internet. A second person "spread" online material "that praises religious extremism and terrorism." According to the Chinese central government, the Xinjiang Uighur groups have links with militants in Central Asia and Pakistan, that who are training them to overthrow the legitimate government and create another independent state.
Last April, a
series of violent clashes near Kashgar - the historic junction of the silk road
- resulted in 21 deaths. In July 2009 violence between the two groups reached
its peak, with more than 200 victims in the provincial capital Urumqi and the
army deployed in the streets in anti-riot formations.
The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslim: for several decades they have had an adversarial relationship with the Chinese central government, which in part they do not recognize. After a few (unsuccessful) attempts to gain independence as "East Turkestan", the ethnic leaders have asked Beijing for the possibility to safeguard their language, culture and religion. The Chinese government - while conceding some tax breaks and social benefits - decided instead to use a heavy hand and launched a campaign of repression and control in the whole area.